December 4th, 2006 – Al Giordano writes: As folks discuss in English what others who speak another language should or should not be doing, I conclude that the discussion will have little impact one way or another, since the people whose actions are being discussed won’t have access to the conversation.
What would be very effective is a critical analysis of English-speaking solidarity and communications efforts in and regarding Oaxaca.
Although the road to Oaxaca for Brad Will and others was paved with good intentions, the hour has come to ask the hard questions not of APPO, but of our selves.
One paradigm shift of recent weeks is that the presumption that having foreigners in a conflict zone brings more safety to the locals has proved false.
To the contrary, after five months of refusing the Oaxaca governor’s call for the federal police, it was the death of a US citizen in Oaxaca that put the Fox administration in the position that it felt (however wrongly) that it had to send in the PFP. The wave of harm that ensued upon the Oaxacan people should be evident to all by now. And it continues.
Our work reporting the situation has also been severely compromised, and made more dangerous, by the actions of various foreigners in Oaxaca. I am not interested in pointing fingers or naming names (because part of the problem has been the attention-seeking protagonism of certain tendencies within the English-speaking sector; why encourage them by providing them with more public attention?) Rather, I am interested in documenting and analyzing the behaviors and actions themselves, so that when this and other conflicts flare up again, there can be more thoughtful response next time that does not cause harm upon a local struggle.
Since events of recent months provide us with a textbook case of when “revolutionary tourism” does more harm than good, it is time to write the textbook. Oaxaca 2006 provides ample documentation.
In Chiapas, the Zapatista communities and human rights organizations have learned from hard experience to severely control the actions of visitors from outside. In Oaxaca this year there wasn’t time to develop that in any organized fashion. Many people – some who didn’t know better, others who should have – took advantage of the chaos in ways that hopefully someday they will regret, or at least not repeat.
Thus, as part of this research, I invite anyone else who has thought about these issues, or knows of examples of counter-productive actions in the name of solidarity or independent media, to send in your thoughts. My email is [email protected]
Not to ask and seek conclusions to these questions would be a guarantee that mistakes will be repeated. And those who have to suffer the consequences are not the visitors, but the very people the visitors claimed to be helping.